May 8, 2019
Jimmy Fallon Was Great At Being Jimmy Fallon While Hosting His First ‘Tonight Show’
So your Twitter feed probably went all Jimmy Fallon all the time last night at 11:30 Eastern when he did his first hosting stint on the Tonight Show, at which point you had emotions ranging from FINALLY JAY LENO IS GONE to THANK THE SWEET LORD ABOVE JAY LENO IS GONE. But how was Fallon? Should you believe the hype?
Fallon was funny, if you already found Fallon funny. That’s not damning him with faint praise, actually. It’s just pointing out that each Tonight Show host is going to have his (yes, his) own sense of humor and his own favorite guests. This will not be Jay Leno’s show, which is a universal good upon which we can all agree. It will probably not be Johnny Carson’s show either, in large part because many people who were perennial Johnny guests are dead, people. Let the past go.
In addition, the show will never be Carson because nothing will ever be like Carson ever again now that you have one million other choices of teevee to be watching at 11:30, or a ceaseless parade of porn on your iPad, so there’s no shared experience of watching. Fallon doesn’t have to be Carson because he’ll never have to please the incredibly widespread audience that Carson did. Related, there will probably never be another time like last night when your Twitter feed is 100% Fallon, except maybe when FLOTUS is on there on Thursday of this week.
Fallon’s show last night could be roughly divided into two types of content. The type even your mother would like, because it is generically funny and relies upon nothing more than sufficient star power and Fallon’s self-deprecation to carry it, and the type your mother will not like, because it involves the hippity hop rap music dancing.
The former was a very funny bit about Fallon announcing he could now collect on his $100 bet from an unnamed person (singular) who said he would never be the host, which led to a 3-minute parade of people coming out to pay up, much to Jimmy’s dismay.
Mom will probably laugh when Robert De Niro and Broadway Joe Namath come out to throw him a hundo, but be deeply perplexed by Lady Gaga coming out in a sort of nightmare leotard thing to do the same. Mom will have mixed feelings about Stephen Colbert, because she knows who he is but just doesn’t get him. Depending on how regular a viewer of Johnny’s show Mom was, she might chortle the most about the fact that one of the bet losers is none other than Joan Rivers, who had been persona non grata on the Tonight Show since 1986.
Rivers became Carson’s permanent guest host in fall of 1983, but would leave just a few years later to launch her own competing program, Fox’s The Late Show With Joan Rivers — a move that Carson would never accept.
“I adored Johnny. In the ’70s, I did opening monologues, I was hosting. The turning point was when I left the show,” Rivers told The Hollywood Reporter last December. “Everybody left the show to go to do their own shows. Bill Cosby. David Brenner. George Carlin. Everybody. I stuck around for 18 years. And they finally offered me my own late-night show. The first person I called was Johnny, and he hung up on me — and never, ever spoke to me again.”
Oh god, that reminds us how deeply unfunny David Brenner was and how dismayed we always were when he showed up.
The type of skit Mom will probably not find funny, but most people under 50 will at least smirk at, is the Jimmy Fallon raps or sings or lip syncs or does the evolution of dance, as he did last night with Will Smith.
That bit was good, and Smith struck all the right notes of being wacky Will Smith and mystified by what the hell Jimmy is doing Will Smith, but let’s face it: that evolution of dance bit will never top the evolution of mom dancing with FLOTUS.
Sorry Jimmy. You peaked too early, guest-wise, on those bits, but we’re sure you’ll think of something else.